Wedding Planning By Jessica Weltersen Professional wedding consultants are no longer just for couples with unlimited budgets; they have become indispensable today to many brides and grooms who find their services well worth the expense. Being experienced in negotiating with all the other wedding vendors, they can save the couple precious time and money. Professional Wedding Consultants are not there to make decisions for you, but to guide and assist you in making those decisions. They guide you through the planning process and the wedding itself. They can help you create a style/theme and develop a color palette based on your vision, connect you to the appropriate vendors, advise you on proper etiquette, and suggest the best ways to use your budget wisely. Besides keeping your schedule on track, Professional Wedding Consultants also create a wedding-day itinerary and make sure all the details are in place. What one question should you ask your Professional Wedding Consultant to get you the information you need? “How can I save money and still have the beautiful wedding I have always been dreaming of?” Today, more and more brides decide to plan their own wedding; that way they feel their celebration is more “personal” and they feel they are more in control. However, do not take the value a Professional Wedding Consultant lightly. Any advice you can glean from these professionals who have created weddings from start to finish thousands of times will pay you back two-fold. But if you just can’t, or don’t want to, take advantage of ALL that a Professional Wedding Consultant can do for you, then try to find one that offers their consultation on a limited basis. Even just being able to pick the brain of a Professional Wedding Consultant can help your planning process immensely, and one of the great parts about this type of arrangement is you can work with any Professional Wedding Consultant who offers this type of service no matter where they are located because it can be done by phone or computer (technology today lets us connect with everyone in the world)! What You Should Expect for This Type of Consultation: In a short cost-effective 2-hour meeting with a couple, you should be able to discuss all the main aspects of your wedding such as what kind of event you envision, the color scheme or a theme, and how much you want to spend. A good wedding consultant will attempt to glean a lot of “personal” information from you such as your “story,” your personalities and your heritage. With all that information they should then be able to create something like our “wedding concept report” that should include details such as a summary of your vision, a color scheme with inspiring pictures, ideas on décor elements that will make your day as unique as you are, a personalized checklist with deadlines, and a customized budget analysis based on your preferences. If you are using this service from a wedding consultant that is in your local area, they should also be able to provide a venue/vendor referral list based on what your budget and dreams are, and most importantly direct you to the right combination of professionals who match your vision and style. Of course, even when you choose to take care of all the planning yourself, either not using the full services of a wedding consultant or using the limited services as outlined above, we strongly recommend you hire a professional wedding consultant to coordinate your wedding day and to make sure everything runs smoothly. Keep in mind this cost should be part of your budget, not an extra expense (you should include this category in your budget as soon as you start planning). This coordination would include tasks such as the preparation of a timeline for your vendors, supervision of the setup at both ceremony and reception sites, gathering your wedding party for pictures, making sure all the seating cards are in place, checking that the flowers and food are exactly what you ordered, and at the end of your reception collecting all your wedding items (such as guest book, toasting glasses and cake serving set). I stress the fact on the word “professional”! Don’t ask your mother, your cousin, or your best friend to supervise everything at your wedding; they will not know how to manage the day from the “I Do” to cake cutting, or how to deal with emergencies in case something arises unexpectedly. In addition, they were invited to the wedding as guests; therefore, they should enjoy the day as much as you. How to Interview Potential Professional Wedding Consultants Always interview a few potential wedding consultants in person. A positive chemistry between you and your consultant is very important. You want to feel comfortable with them and make sure that they completely understand what your needs are. Depending on the level of assistance you require, you might be spending a lot of time together planning one of the major rites of passage in your life. During the interview (after you checked for references) find out how long they have been in business and how many events they do each month (you will want to be sure they have enough time for you). Look at their portfolio, focusing on how much attention was paid to detail, rather than whether the style matches yours. Also, ask if they belong to any professional associations such as the Association of Bridal Consultants (“ABC”). ABC is the oldest and largest training organization for wedding professionals in the world and their members agree to uphold the ABC Code of Ethics and Professional Standards of Membership and are required to attend periodical conferences and seminars to keep up with the latest trends in the wedding industry. As ABC says, “Our behind-the-scenes professionals can manage the hard work for you, so you can spend more time with your family and friends – and truly Be a Guest at Your Own Wedding.” Remember, this is your most important day, and you can’t afford to have it ruined by your cake being delivered to a different ballroom, or having the wrong song played during your first dance. There are no repeats for this even like at a holiday party, where you can do better the following year. Make sure everything is planned carefully, and a professional is in control. It will be well worth your money. Let your dreams come true at your wedding, and say “I Do” with a relaxed smile on your face!